Mother bird’s nightmare

Tree sweet gum ball

As I stared at the sweet gum ball, trying to figure out how to draw it, I could suddenly hear dozens of screaming baby birds! All those mouths would be a mother bird’s nightmare!

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Wanders With Worms

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“Wanders With Worms”, “Dances With Wolves”.. To each his own…Worms 10

Crisp, cool air and a damp road created quite a traffic jam on Fenwick Road. There were so many worms crossing back and forth that I had to watch my feet for my entire walk. I started to look for other road warriors but realized it was only about 33 degrees, 10 degrees too cold for slugs. So I spent the remainder of my walk thinking about designing hats and coats for the obviously chilly worms. I tried to find out how they survive out of the ground at current temperatures. I found something that said ,” Cool temperatures of 50, 60, 70 degrees F and moist conditions are best for earthworms. Earthworms aren’t active when it’s cold or dry.” As my favorite cousin says, BAHAHAHAHAHA, or something like that. You will just have to imagine me chasing worms around the road with my iPhone.Worms 11

The sun just came out! Worms can only survive for an hour in the sun! Hurry guys! PS. Did you or a friend come up with the perfect Indian name for you when we all saw “Dancing With Wolves”? Please send me your favorite Indian name.

Migratory Earthworms…

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On January 24, 2017 earthworms were still migrating across the road here in southern Maryland. To get to the other side? Has the warm weather confused them? Should I pick them up and tuck them into my houseplants before the ground freezes? Here’s what they’re supposed to do:

Earthworms in winter, like earthworms during drought (dry soil conditions), burrow deeply. Night crawlers, the biggest of the garden worms (at least in my neck of the woods) will tunnel as much as six feet down, taking organic matter with them. There they build permanent burrows and wait for moisture.

All earthworms do more than just burrow to escape frozen ground. Once down as deep as they will go, they curl up tightly, surrounding themselves in insulating slime. In summer, during hot and dry spells, they enter a hibernation-like state known as estivation. In winter, the worms hibernate, waiting for soil to thaw before moving upward.

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“…It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” — Charles Darwin (1881)

The lowly earthworm, they’re given such short shrift. With nary a thought from us, they quietly work magic day and night, right under our very feet. We should be celebrating earthworms, as the ancient Egyptians did, because they’re the unheralded champs of soil restoration. Aristotle called them “the intestines of the earth.”

Earthworms clean up debris and recycle it as fertilizer. Their tunnels aerate the soil and erosion is almost eliminated. Their labors benefit the food we eat, the flowers we love, the trees that shade us and the wildlife who live in our yards. And, the worms themselves are food for many animals. Around the world, agricultural areas are going “no-till.” In these instances, earthworms are valued as the main force for churning crop residue into the soil and keeping it fertile.

They’re strange-looking critters, aren’t they? But they’re perfectly built for the work they do, and they’ve been doing it successfully for a long time — maybe 1.2 billion years. In 2002, Australian researchers found a fossilized trail in sandstone they believe was made by a worm-like animal that long ago. This would not only be the oldest worm evidence, but the oldest multi-celled animal.

Why is our yard full of robins? Duh…Camera and brain out of focus…..

Why is our yard filled with robins on such a misty, moisty morning? There is nothing like an old fashioned walk to find the obvious answer. Guess what other wild animals were out there!

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Earthworms  are much more willing to pose than robins. FYI, it feels like spring out today. So let’s get on to the next question with thanks to Google. I bet you’re dying to know…

Why Do Earthworms Surface After Rain?

Rather than flooded tunnels, easier migration and predation fear may drive the worms out

Credit: blogs.usda.gov

Earthworms laying on sidewalks or streets after a heavy spring rain has become commonplace, but why do they do this … and could they be a travel hazard?

Researchers hypothesize several reasons why heavy rain storms bring crawlers out of their soil homes.

For years scientists seemed to think the only reason earthworms came to the soil surface after a good rain was to prevent drowning in their water-filled burrows.

“This is not true as earthworms breathe through their skins and actually require moisture in the soil to do so,” said Dr. Chris Lowe, Lecturer in Waste and Environmental Management, University of Central Lancashire in Preston, United Kingdom.

Earthworms are unable to drown like a human would, and they can even survive several days fully submerged in water.

Soil experts now think earthworms surface during rain storms for migration purposes.

“It gives them an opportunity to move greater distances across the soil surface than they could do through soil,” said Dr. Lowe. “They cannot do this when it is dry because of their moisture requirements.”

Certain species of earthworms surface to mate, but only a few of the 4,400 existing species, making it unlikely that mating is a primary reason for widespread surfacing.

Another explanation involves rain drop vibrations on the soil surface sounding similar to predator vibrations, like that of moles. Earthworms often come to the surface to escape moles.

“Rain can set up vibrations on top of the soil like mole vibrations,” said Professor Josef Gorres of the University of Vermont’s Department of Plant and Soil Science. “Similar to how earthworms move upwards and out of the way when predator vibrations are felt, they could move in a similar way for rain vibrations.”

Similarly, humans create vibrations when “fiddling” for bait earthworms.

To coax worms from their burrows, fishermen run a piece of steel or a hand saw across the top of a stake, which causes a rubbing sound to occur as the stake vibrates.

Earthworms are then moved to the surface, much to the fisherman’s delight.

A Travel Hazard?
Although there are no reports of travel disruptions or injuries due to earthworms creating slick road conditions, some researchers haven’t ruled out the possibility.

“I have not heard of earthworms causing slick conditions on sidewalks, but I can believe it might happen as they exude a mucous through their skin that may cause slippery conditions,” said Dr. Lowe.